Blue Jays: Former stars up for Hall of Fall vote

Apr 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros former players Jeff Bagwell (left) and Roger Clemens (right) throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros former players Jeff Bagwell (left) and Roger Clemens (right) throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

There are a few players on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot with ties to the Toronto Blue Jays

It’s that time of year again, when writers and fans alike debate the career credentials of some of baseball’s greatest players. The Hall of Fame votes are already in, and the announcement will be made on January 18th.

This year, there are 34 players on the ballot, including 5 candidates with ties to the Toronto Blue Jays. The last former Jay to be enshrined was Frank Thomas in 2014, who played north of the border for the 2007-08 seasons.

This year, there are 5 players with connections to the Blue Jays, some more significant than others. Let’s take a look:

For a look at all of the candidates and how they’ve performed on public ballots thus far, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs), has put together a public spreadsheet

Roger Clemens

“The Rocket” signed with the Blue Jays in 1997, after 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. At the time, the Red Sox and then GM, Dan Duquette, let Clemens leave and commented that the 34-year-old was “in the twilight of his career”. The flamethrower proved Duquette very wrong, and pitched another 11 seasons.

As a Blue Jay, Clemens was as good as the Jays could have possibly asked for. He won the Cy Young award in both seasons in Toronto, finishing his first season 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA over 264 innings. He threw 9 complete games, including 3 shutouts, and lead the league with 292 strikeouts. 1998 brought more of the same as he went 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA over 234 frames. He even garnered some MVP votes, finishing 10th in 1997, and 11th in 1998.

For his career, Clemens finished with 354 wins, over 4600 K’s, and 139.4 WAR in 24 seasons. He wasn’t a Blue Jay for long, but it was fun while it lasted. The 7 time Cy Young winner is on the ballot for the 5th time, and would have been a slam dunk choice long ago, if not for PED allegations. According to Thibodaux’s spreadsheet, Clemens is currently at 69.9%, and trending toward eventual enshrinement in the Hall.

Fred McGriff

Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff, debuted with the Blue Jays in 1986 as a 22 year old, and stuck as a starter in the 1987 season. His smooth left-handed swing produced 125 home runs in 4+ seasons as a Blue Jay from 1986-90, and he also won the Silver Slugger award in 1989. He also finished 6th in MVP voting that season, with a .269/.399/.525 with 36 home runs and 92 RBI, and an OPS of .924.

McGriff was also a part of (in)arguably the biggest trade in Blue Jays history in 1990. The Blue Jays sent their star first baseman and shortstop Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for second baseman Roberto Alomar, and outfielder Joe Carter. For as good as McGriff and Fernandez both went on to be, it’s hard to argue that things didn’t work out for Toronto.

McGriff is in his 8th year on the ballot and appears to be a long shot, currently showing at 13.7%.

Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent with the Blue Jays? Yep, for a very brief time.

The 5 time All-Star began his career with the Blue Jays in 1992, getting 192 at bats in 65 games. He showed promise, especially on offence, but few saw his career developing into a case for the Hall of Fame.

The Blue Jays certainly didn’t see it coming, and also didn’t have a need at second base with Alomar in house, so they traded Kent to the Mets in exchange for David Cone. The move ended up working out for both sides, as the Blue Jays benefitted from Cone’s presence in the rotation on the way to the 1992 championship, even if trading Kent stung a little.

The 2000 NL MVP currently shows at 12.4% in his 4th year on the ballot, making it unlikely he’ll reach the 75% needed in order to qualify.

Matt Stairs

A fan favourite while in Toronto, Canadian, Matt Stairs is unlikely to survive his first go-around on the ballot. That’s not to say his career isn’t worth celebrating, as Stairs was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, but the MLB Hall is a more difficult nut to crack.

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For the Blue Jays, Stairs was a member of the club in 2007-08 as a 39 and 40-year-old part-time player. In 230 games, Stairs actually provided a lot of value, hitting 21 home runs and 64 RBI in 2007 with a semi-regular role, and another 11 home runs and 44 RBI the following season before he was sent to the Phillies prior to the trade deadline. All told, he played for a record 13 MLB teams during his career. He also holds the record for pinch-hit home runs, with 23.

Stairs’ powerful swing and veteran presence made him an endearing figure to Jays fans in his short time in Toronto. He has not appeared on a public ballot as of yet, and appears to be a candidate to be “one and done”. The minimum requirement to stay on the ballot is 5%, which is likely a reach for the 19 year veteran.

And last but not least….

Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir Guerro is on the ballot for the first time, and might be the strongest candidate for first time induction this year. “The Impaler” dominated the big leagues over 16 seasons with the Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, hitting a career .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs.

We could be here all night discussing his credentials (note: there are many), but his candidacy is a no-brainer, even if he doesn’t get in on the first crack.

He signed a minor league contract with Toronto in 2012, but never actually made it to the big league club. In 4 games for the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays, he showed he could still hit, going 9-20 with 4 home runs. He was then promoted to Triple A, where he went 10-33 (.303) in 8 games, before asking for his release in June, much to my personal disappointment

Of course, Vladimir Guerro Jr. is now a Blue Jays prospect as well, which could keep the future Hall of Famer around Toronto a little more in the near future.

Guerrero Sr. is currently showing at 77.1%, making it possible he could enter the Hall this season.

Next: Bullpen development could be next competitive edge in MLB

The results of the voting process are set to be announced on January 18th, 2017, and next year’s class will be inducted during the Hall of Fame weekend on July 30th.